Kurt Vile, Alabama Shakes rock the Greek

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For the second week in a row the Greek Theater in Berkeley was treated to two headliners joining for one show. The week prior saw Brand New and Modest Mouse put on a genre-blending set, while this time around road warrior Kurt Vile and the best-rock-and-roll-band-since-the-Black-Keys (we’re trademarking that nickname by the way) in the Alabama Shakes graced the summer stage at the Greek.

While Brand New may have put on the best individual performance out of the four bands, week two in this case certainly was the all-around champ. This distinction comes in large part to the superior sound production by both bands’ road crew.

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Kurt Vile’s reverb and monotonous vocals never sounded better — even at the scale of an outdoor amphitheater. He blazed through a solid set that featured a banjo appearance and what I think was a new guitar for every song.

Mostly playing songs from his newest albums, with higher production value and larger band presence, Kurt Vile continues to be a great live act (especially in this role as show opener). His lo-fi sound was the perfect soundtrack to help the sun set, prepping the stage for headliners.

It’s hard to add any new insights into the quality that is the Alabama Shakes’ live show. Their two-plus hour long set included all the hits you would come to expect, which makes it hard to believe they’ve only released two full-length albums. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Brittany Howard is just amazing live. Her ridiculous passion really fuels the greater collective band.

As with Kurt Vile, the sound production was top notch. “I think the live act is better than the recording” is the new “the book was better than the movie,” but in this instance it’s true. The Alabama Shakes are definitely in the running for best live act of the year. If you get the chance to see them at a venue as great as the Greek, do yourself a favor and get a ticket, you won’t regret it.

 

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